Having an ‘Elephant in the room’ would usually mean an incredibly awkward situation, a source of embarrassment that is simply taboo or one that could trigger an argument.
The metaphorical idiom refers to an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed, a major problem or risk that no one wants to discuss…so surely having TWO elephants in the room would spell double trouble for Manuel Pellegrini – wouldn’t it?
After all, prior to their 4-1 pounding of Stoke City in the Potteries a week ago, Manchester City had endured a five game winless streak, been ignominiously dumped out of the FA Cup and slumped seven points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea in 2015.
However, quite the contrary is true for City’s under pressure boss.
The twin elephantine presence of all-conquering Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony from a victorious African Cup of Nations tournament, could have a huge impact on City’s bid to retain their PL crown, as well as progress beyond the last 16 in the Champions League.
Fresh from the Côte d’Ivoire’s (nicknamed Les Éléphants) nail-biting 9-8 penalty shootout win over Ghana, Yaya and Bony are set to signal a City stampede for Premier League points, starting with a win against Newcastle on Saturday evening.
City have undoubtedly struggled in Yaya’s absence, as well as craved the goals so eagerly anticipated from £25m new boy, Bony. Despite their recent pains, a dominant second half display at the Britannia Stadium – with three unanswered strikes – had already given rise to optimism, prior to the return of the Ivorians.
Undeniably shaky in the first 45 minutes against Mark Hughes’ robust Stoke, City morphed back into the Champions of England, a sight so rarely seen in recent weeks.
Sergio Aguero rediscovered his shooting boots, Samir Nasri shook off the ring rust after his injury-induced absence, while James Milner continued his recent goal scoring purple patch.
Eliaquim Mangala returned to add power and speed to the City defence, albeit the defensive unit as a whole – the French centre back, Zabaleta, Kompany and Kolarov – looked worryingly vulnerable against the speed of Stoke’s Moses and the awkward threat posed by the ungainly Crouch.
Joe Hart – playing as if he had a sponsorship deal whereby his gloves were coated in Lurpak butter – fumbled and spilled the ball far too frequently, and was lucky to get away with a mistake when a Crouch ‘goal’ was correctly ruled out for being offside.
Hart has had better days – much better days – and greatly enhanced performances between the City sticks, will be just as important for the rest of the season as the number of goals Aguero, Bony and Co can plunder at the other end of the pitch.
The inclusion of the ex-Swansea striker in City’s 21-man Champions League squad came as no surprise to anyone it seems, apart from Stevan Jovetic, the man dropped to make way for Bony.
Jovetic accused Pellegrini of ‘killing him’ after omitting him from the remainder of City’s Champions League campaign. Such an accusation – even by Sicknote Stevan’s injury-riddled standards – sounds terminal.
Jovetic moaned: “The manager has killed me with this decision. I feel I deserve my place and other people have told me the same.
“People have told me I am a great player, but it is clear that the manager doesn’t think the same way.
“I don’t think it was a good decision – or the right decision. I know that I deserve to be on the list. I came here to play in the Champions League.”
Apart from Jovetic’s family and friends, one has to wonder who has told him he deserves his place and believes him to be a great player?
City are reported to have paid Fiorentina £22m in the summer of 2013. His 11 goals from 19 starts and 22 substitute appearances since arriving at the Etihad, equate to £2m per goal.
For all his alleged talent, the 25-year old Montenegrin has failed to deliver. On the rare occasions he hasn’t been claiming squatter’s rights in the medical room, he has all too often busied himself on the field of play with no end product.
It may not be for the want of trying, but he has proven himself incredibly ‘fragile’, unreliable and now absurdly conceited. His supporters might prefer to say Jovetic has belief in his own abilities, but his record since coming to England suggests otherwise.
Cue the deafening silence from City fans, less than outraged at his omission from the CL squad.
If he wants to prove his worth and salvage a career at City, Jovetic needs to create opportunities and score goals to help bring back-to-back domestic league titles to the Etihad.
That pre-supposes he’s going to get game time, but that may not happen with Bony’s arrival and Dzeko’s return to fitness.
No one expects Jovetic to have a scoring record like Aguero – he’s not an out and out striker – but his comments do little to help his cause. If he ends up going to Juventus this summer as part of a deal to bring Paul Pogba to the Etihad, he will at least have played a part in securing a bright future for City.
With 39 points still up for grabs, City are going to have to hit winning ways and ensure no repeats of the dire home offerings as witnessed against Arsenal, Middlesbrough and Hull.
Fortress Etihad has provided the foundations for title successes in 2012 and 2014, but City have struggled against bus-parking opponents this season, especially those able to launch swift counter attacks when they do release the hand brake.
Little wonder then, that Pellegrini’s men have plundered more points away from home, with 28 of the 52 coming on enemy territory.
If City are to create history by bridging the gap between themselves and Chelsea, they must be more creative and clinical in front of goal and less susceptible to sucker punch counter attacks and individual errors.
The Stoke win was as imperative as it was enjoyable. The return of Yaya and introduction of Bony should be influential and productive, but one elephant would still remain in the room…City’s corner kicks!
Two taken at the Britannia Stadium resulted in what is now the norm for City – nothing.
Statisticians state that it’s now in the region of 230 corners over a period of 31 matches – an average of between seven and eight per game – since City last scored as a result of a corner kick, away to Arsenal on September 13th, 2014.
Forget any elephants in the room, maybe the presence of an elephant in the box can render a solution?
Over to you Wilfried…no pressure!
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By David Walker